Dean's Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program

Overview and Goals

As part of its efforts to better support Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School is pleased to provide the timeline and details for the sixth-year-funding program. This program originated from the work of the Task Force on the Future of the Graduate School, which began meeting in 2014, issued its final report in January 2016, and received a response to its recommendations from the president and provost in July 2016.  These documents can be found at the University strategic planning website at

The program has two components.  The first component is the Dean’s Completion Fellowship. It will pay the Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) fall-semester tuition fee and provide up to one semester of fellowship funding at the full standard stipend rate to selected sixth-year students in the humanities and social sciences, along with the Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) fee. Students selected for the program who finish dissertation work and successfully complete the Final Public Oral (FPO) before the end of the fall semester of the sixth year (that is, before the end of January) will then have the opportunity to be appointed as Postgraduate Research Associates (PGRAs) through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, through the end of the sixth year (that is, through the end of August). For that reason, we are calling this sixth-year-funding initiative the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program.

The goals of the program are 1) to provide an additional and generous form of financial support to promising sixth-year students in the form of fellowship, allowing them to focus on completion of the dissertation; 2) to incentivize completion of the degree, allowing students selected for the program who complete the FPO before the end of the fall semester to transition to PGRA appointments via the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, with an increase in pay, a secure employment affiliation with the University through the end of August of the sixth year, and an opportunity to engage in activities that will make them stronger candidates on the job market; and 3) to alleviate funding pressures for all other sixth-year students not selected as part of the sixth-year-funding program by taking the students selected for the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program out of the competition for other existing funding sources (AI appointments, Writing Program appointments, departmental funds, etc.).

Relation to Existing Programs and Policies

The Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program is intended to provide funding opportunities on top of existing programs and policies, and not to replace or diminish those existing programs or policies. Departments that already provide funding to their sixth-year students will not be penalized in the allocation of slots they will receive for this new program. Similarly, policies that currently allow students in the humanities and social sciences to bank a year of fellowship funding for use in a sixth year will continue. The childbirth and adoption accommodation policy will also continue to allow qualifying students to receive fellowship in the sixth year.

The Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program is not in any way an extension of the regular program length associated with our Ph.D. programs. Sixth-year students who have not yet completed the FPO will still in all cases be enrolled in dissertation completion enrollment (DCE) status, even while receiving the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall semester. Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients will receive guaranteed funding as students while they are enrolled in DCE status in the fall semester, just as students who bank a year of funding, receive the IHUM fellowship, or qualify for the childbirth and adoption accommodation receive guaranteed funds while enrolled in DCE status. If they complete the FPO by the end of the fall semester, they then transfer to PGRA status as employees. If they do not complete the FPO by the end of the fall semester, they may continue on in DCE status as students, according to the normal DCE status rules.

Allocation of Slots, Timeline, and Selection

In the beginning of February, the Graduate School makes a final determination about the number of Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA slots available for the next year. The total number of available slots are distributed to all departments in the humanities and social sciences in proportion to their enrollments of current fifth-year students.  The smallest departments receive at least one slot. In future years, the number of slots allocated to each department may depend in part on successful outcomes from this program (as well as funding and cohort size).

Once a department receives its number of slots for the coming year, it begins a process of determining who in the department should receive each slot. Recipients should be selected from among promising students who do not already have secure employment appointments (after the FPO) for the coming year and who are likely to be able to complete the FPO before the end of the fall semester of their sixth year. Selections are made by the department faculty.

Terms of Appointment as Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program Recipient

By May 1 a department must determine who receives its allocated slot(s) and submit its recommendation to the Graduate School.  As part of its submission, a department provides a brief outline of the proposed activities in which the selected student will engage as a PGRA if the student completes to FPO while receiving the Dean’s Completion Fellowship, from anticipated FPO date until end of the PGRA appointment. Activities may include any of the following: research and publication work, advising undergraduate students, administrative duties (within the department or in conjunction with other University offices), and/or teaching a course in the spring semester contingent upon sufficient enrollment and approval by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

The information provided is reviewed by the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School and by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. The deans notify a department about any issues of a selected student’s proposed activities as a PGRA that may require resolution. Once selections are finalized, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School issues to selected students a letter confirming their selection as Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients for the fall semester. Selected students’ reenrollment reply forms issued by the Graduate School also indicate guaranteed fall-semester fellowship support from the Graduate School for the coming sixth year.

It is expected that recipients of the Dean’s Completion Fellowship do not serve as AIs in the fall semester. The Dean’s Completion Fellowship pays students fellowship in the fall semester in order to allow them to focus on completing their dissertations. The fellowship also is intended to remove them from competition for AI appointments, which other sixth-year students may need.

Students selected for Dean’s Completion Fellowships must accept the Dean’s Completion Fellowship offer by June 1.

Terms of and Process for Appointment as PGRA

  • Appointment as a PGRA may begin as early as September 1 and as late as February 1 within the same academic year. In all cases the appointment is contingent on successful completion of the FPO. Official documentation regarding completion must be sent from the Graduate School with the appointment dossier to the Dean of the Faculty. If the FPO is not completed by January 31, then the PGRA appointment offer is no longer valid. Students selected for the program who – in rare but possible cases – complete the FPO before August (for a September 1 appointment) would still see their appointment begin September 1. (Health insurance coverage should not be an issue in such cases, because under current policy a student who completes the FPO while still enrolled is automatically given a three-month extension of benefits at no charge; employment benefits will be effective at the beginning of the month for the PGRA appointment). Actual time in a PGRA appointment may, therefore, be as short as six months (February 1 to September 1) or as long as 12 months (September 1 to September 1).
  • Like all faculty and staff appointments, PGRAs must successfully pass a background check before the appointment can be finalized.
  • International PGRAs here on a student visa may not begin their appointment without authorization from the Davis International Center in the form of Academic Training (J-1 students) or from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the form of Optional Practical Training (F-1 students).  International students should meet with their Davis International Center adviser to discuss their options at least three months before the anticipated FPO date. 
  • PGRAs are employed and paid a salary on a monthly basis through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty (from monies allocated by the Graduate School) at the NIH NRSA minimum salary level, which currently is set at $50,100 (annualized). All PGRAs are guaranteed the same base salary.
  • For PGRAs who are selected to teach a class as part of their proposed spring-semester activities, the duty-time allocated to teaching would be paid at the lecturer-with-Ph.D. rate stipulated by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. Because that rate, currently at $67,700 (for a 10-month appointment), is higher than the base PGRA salary, the difference would be paid through the department’s teaching budget upon approval by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty or through department funds. Additionally, if a PGRA teaches a course in the spring semester, the future PGRA employee and department must meet the normal deadlines and requirements for undergraduate course approval as set by the Office of the Dean of the College and the associated Committee on the Course of Study. If approved, the course may go forward in the spring semester only if the PGRA is successfully appointed to the rank before the start of the course. For all cases where PGRAs are expected to teach, approval is contingent upon approval by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.
  • PGRAs who accept an appointment at another institution or at Princeton before August 31 must resign as PGRAs effective the date that the new appointment begins.
  • PGRAs are non-renewable, term appointments. After August 31, appointments and associated benefits of PGRAs end (if they have not ended earlier due to new employment). A person with a PGRA appointment may continue on at the University after August 31 only if that person has a separately confirmed appointment.

Dean’s Completion Fellowship Recipients Who Do Not Complete the FPO by January 31

If a Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipient does not successfully complete the dissertation by January 31, and therefore does not convert to PGRA employment status, then the student simply continues on as a DCE student, with no guaranteed funding from the Graduate School (except in cases where they may have previously received a guarantee for funding in the first DCE year, as explained below) and no further opportunity to convert to a PGRA. The student may apply to and receive any funding opportunities that other DCE students have access to, including AI appointments, departmental funds, external awards, etc.

Because the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program is intended to complement and supplement currently available funding in the sixth year, it is possible for recipients of the Dean’s Completion Fellowship who do not convert to PGRAs and who have previously qualified for a banked year of guaranteed fellowship funding from the Graduate School (because of a qualifying external award, because of participation in IHUM, etc.) to draw on that funding in the spring semester of the sixth year. In other words, while the Dean’s Completion Fellowship replaces any funding they may have otherwise been guaranteed by the Graduate School in the fall semester, they would nonetheless be able to recoup any promised spring-semester funding that they still require. No previously guaranteed funding from the Graduate School will be moved to a seventh year, however, except in cases of the childbirth and adoption accommodation. Any questions about a student’s funding should be referred to Finance and Administration in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.

Recap of Timeline

  • February 2019  – Graduate School informs departments of Dean’s Completion Fellowship slot allocation; Graduate School issues call for nominations for honorific fellowships.
  • May 1, 2019 – Departments notify the Graduate School about who should receive the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA slots.  (This date allows for departments to make their selections after they have received already notification about which if any of their students they nominated for the Graduate School honorific fellowships have been awarded an honorific fellowship.)
  • June 1, 2019 – Deadline for Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients to accept the offer letter issued by the Graduate School.
  • September 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020 – Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients who complete the FPO may convert to PGRA employment status (rolling basis, based on FPO date).
  • February 1, 2020 – Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients who have not completed the FPO by January 31, 2019, continue on as DCE students (without Dean’s Completion Fellowship funding, but with any other funding they are otherwise entitled to).
  • August 31, 2020 – Last possible day of PGRA appointment.